True Artists Pay No Mind to What You Think

A controversial read.

Since the release of my novel, LITTLE 15, in January, I have received a tremendous response – albeit emotional at times – from readers and reviewers alike. The reactions that have struck me most, however, have come from a few folks here and there who have approached me with stammered hesitation, seemingly trying to avoid what they believe to be the elephant in the room. With a tinge of uncertainty, interlaced with small talk and congratulatory tidings on the release of my book, sooner or later these curious individuals (one being my doctor, as well as countless neighbors and friends) finally get around to asking the question that’s been burning in their minds:

“Is LITTLE 15 about you?”

I realize that most pose this question out of a sincere showing of concern, ready to envelop me into their arms (or refer me to their therapist) if it so happens that this novel of mine is really, in fact, a memoir. Others I’m sure are just wildly curious, while some I know would just like to jumpstart the rumor mill. Whatever their motive, I fully expected these type of inquiries from some readers and don’t blame them in the very least.

Controversy Begs Questions – and Raises Eyebrows

You see, when you write a story as controversial as Little 15 – a story about a 15-year-old basketball star, her coach and their torrid affair – you’re bound to get questions about the origin of your muse. And if you consider yourself an artist who truly  is committed to her work, then what people think shouldn’t matter at all. And yes, that includes even your family.

The thing is, LITTLE 15 could be a story about anyone – you, me, the babysitter down the street, the teen bagger at the grocery store, the MVP on the soccer team. Girl, boy, white, black, what have you, relationships between teachers and students, coaches and athletes, have unfortunately been going on for years – and are no different since we were in school.

A match made in the classroom: James Hooker (41) and Jordan Powers (18). Photo courtesy of ABC News.

Here in the United States, the most recent teacher-student scandal to rattle our collective societal conscience involves 18-year-old Jordan Powers, a California teen who dropped out of school earlier this year to move in with her teacher, 41-year-old James Hooker, a married father of three. Without going into elaborate detail, the two met when Powers was 14, but claim their relationship did not turn sexual until she reached 18. In a dramatic turn of events, California authorities have arrested Hooker for assaulting a teenage girl 14 years ago. Since his arrest, Powers has broken off the relationship with her teacher and moved back home with her mother.

Last year, a scandal erupted locally where I live at the Episcopal School of Dallas, where a popular and very married history teacher carried on a nearly two-year affair with one of his students, a 16-year-old girl who ended up getting expelled after the relationship was exposed.

And finally, for good measure, I must mention the legendary case of Mary Kay Letourneau, who spent seven years behind bars for her affair with a 13-year-old boy, Vili Fualaau.

Obviously, the topic’s not new. American films like Never Been Kissed and the satirical Election have showed us the lighter side of student-teacher romance. But the reality is far less pleasant.

LITTLE 15: A Dark Tale Of First Love

Told through the eyes of 15-year-old Lauren Muchmore, LITTLE 15 reveals a very different side to these sex scandals not often captured by the media.

Set in an all-girls Catholic school, Lauren’s story gives a voice to teens who’ve fallen victim to the adults they’ve admired and trusted – teachers and coaches who were supposed to know better and keep them from harms way. It’s a disturbing, yet tender tale of passion and heartbreak; temptation and loss of innocence; of shame and guilt.

Simply put, it’s a story that will get into your head.

Fact or Fiction?

So how do I answer those questions about whether or not LITTLE 15 is a story about me?

I smile and politely say: “There’s a reason why this book is fiction.”

The rest I leave to their imagination.

And now I will do the same for yours.

Let Me Hear From You

Do you know of any teacher-student scandals where you live? Did you ever hear rumblings of such happenings when you were in school? Talk to me. You might as well. I’ll be here all week.

Stephanie Saye began her journey as a writer at sixteen when an Ursuline nun discovered her talent. Her Catholic upbringing, coupled with an eye for controversy and an affinity for dark, psychological drama, inspires much of her research and storytelling. A seasoned corporate communicator, Stephanie lives in Texas with her husband and two sons. Follow Stephanie on Twitter (@stephaniesaye) and on Facebook (facebook.com/stephaniesaye). To learn more about Stephanie, subscribe to her blog at www.stephaniesaye.wordpress.com


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